Ray: Tomlin's postgame admission sheds light on personnel woes
MONDAY, 30 SEPTEMBER 2013 07:57
WRITTEN BY RAY FITTIPALDO
After another game when the franchise quarterback failed to come through in the clutch, when the defense got gouged by big plays from a previous winless team playing a backup quarterback, the thing that struck me most after the game was something Mike Tomlin said in his postgame news conference.
Tomlin was posed a question about his ineffective left tackle Mike Adams, who remained in the game after being continually beat in pass protection. Tomlin’s explanation was there were no other options because Kelvin Beachum, the top reserve on the line, had to enter the game at guard when Ramon Foster was injured in the first half.
“Anybody else we would have put in there would have been below the line of preparation, so there's no answers in that regard," Tomlin said.
First question: Why is Guy Whimper dressed for the game, or even on the roster, if he is not an option to play guard?
Second question: How in the world can the coaching staff be so ill-prepared for such a situation?
Anyone who has watched this team play in recent years knows injuries to offensive linemen have been a problem. Tomlin and offensive coordinator Todd Haley decided to only dress two reserves for the game – Beachum, the top reserve at all five positions on the line, and Whimper, a trained tackle who has been practicing at guard since training camp.
Dressing only seven linemen is not out of the ordinary in the NFL, but dressing one who apparently is not an option to play unless there is an emergency seems a bit odd.
If Whimper cannot play guard well enough in a game I am not sure why he is on the 53-man roster in the first place. But the fact that Tomlin admitted the coaches were only prepared for one injury on the line is staggering. Tomlin has coached teams when injuries have forced more than one reserve lineman into action in a game. Those teams had answers in the reserves. This one apparently does not.
That doesn’t shine well on the coaches or the player personnel department whose job it is to find capable players to fill key roles in spite of the team’s salary cap restraints.
The Steelers signed Cody Wallace to replace John Malecki after the preseason, and Wallace has not dressed for a game yet. Either he is a slow learner and has trouble picking up the offense, or he too has been deemed not good enough to play.
Which brings us to another question regarding this tattered line: how did the talent get so depleted in a short time?
Everyone knows the Steelers won the Super Bowl in 2008 with an offensive line that was less than ideal. They made it back to the big game again two years later with a similar line. But those lines did not have as many problems protecting Ben Roethlisberger, and it certainly had players who were able to step in during games when injuries occurred.
Former offensive line coach Sean Kugler was hailed for his ability to make patchwork lines work in the face of adversity. Kugler left the team after last season to become the head coach at his alma mater, UTEP. Tomlin hired Jack Bicknell to replace him. To this point, Bicknell has not found the answers, and there don’t appear to be any forthcoming for a team that is 0-4 for the first time since 1968.